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Insights from the UK and beyond

BA horror show should quell talk of “green shoots”

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Willie Walsh likes to tell it as it is.

Recent weeks have seen smatterings of good economic news. Sectors that took the full weight of the recession last year said they were staggering to their feet now spring is here.

Retail: John Lewis had its best week of the year so far from 2nd-9th May.

Leisure: Pubs group Greene King said things have ‘generally improved’ since the start of the year.

Then along comes the British Airways CEO to spoil everyone’s fun.

“I see no signs of recovery anywhere,” Willie Walsh told BBC radio’s Today programme following publication of the airline’s full year results. “Globally we see economic conditions continuing to be very weak. We have a global network so we are operating in pretty much every country around the world, and what we see is pretty much the same everywhere.” Cheers Willie.

British Airways’ numbers are an absolute horror show. Having made a record profit in the year to March 2008, it managed to set another record last year – this time for losses. Its fuel bill nearly doubled to three billion pounds. It is losing passengers hand over fist, grounding planes, slashing thousands of jobs – Walsh himself has even waived a year end bonus.

Nostalgia makes a comeback in TV ad-land

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The recession is bringing back the strangest characters.  Rising from their graves like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead are people we thought had been buried decades ago.

The Milky Bar Kid is one, Persil mum is another and, inevitably, the Hovis bread delivery boy struggling up his cobbled hill while the brass band plays on.

from The Great Debate UK:

Apocalypse Now: A return to high borrowing, high taxes and weak growth

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--Gerard Lyons is chief economist at Standard Chartered. Any opinions expressed are his own. --

Britain is clearly a Jekyll and Hyde economy. Or that at least is what the Chancellor would like us to believe. The bad news we are now seeing in the economy, public finances and across parts of the financial sector will not last. We are in the Mr Hyde phase. But, don't worry, we will soon be back to the normal Dr Jekyll soon.

Another bumper Budget?

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All we’ve heard for the past few weeks is how little room there is for Labour to pump more money into the economy to fight the recession.

The increasingly popular — and confident — opposition Conservatives have gained ground by blaming Prime Minister Gordon Brown for turning the public purse into a public hearse.

What do you want from the Budget?

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With Alistair Darling set to issue the gloomiest budget in a generation, nobody would actually like to be in the Chancellor’s shoes. But put yourself there for a moment and ask yourself, what would your Budget look like?

With a gaping hole in the country’s finances, Darling looks set to admit the economy will shrink at its fastest rate for 60 years. The Budget statement will also come just after new figures are expected to show another 120, 000 signed on for unemployment benefits last month.

Green shoots in the housing market?

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House prices have dropped, interest rates are low and plenty of people are straining at the leash to get on the housing ladder.

Now the Nationwide Building Society says house prices have risen for the first time since October 2007. 

How necessary is the G20 summit?

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From the cosy fireside chats and walks in the woods of 30 years ago, world summitry has expanded beyond all recognition, with this week’s G20 meeting in London being billed in some quarters as the biggest gathering of leaders since 1945.

But the problems now are of course much bigger too. Long gone are the days when a few soothing words about co-operation on currencies would be enough to declare a summit a success.

Ghost of past failure haunts G20

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Stopping off in New York during a marathon, 18,000-mile diplomatic offensive before next week’s G20 summit in London next week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recalled a conference held in eerily similar circumstances in London 76 years ago.

Sixty-six nations gathered for the June 1933 London Monetary and Economic Conference which was aimed at lifting the world’s economy out of the Depression.

The Bank of England enters the political arena

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Gordon Brown has not said openly that he plans to turn on the taps again in the budget with another package of spending and tax cuts, but his appeals to world leaders to do just that have led to a widespread feeling that more stimulus is to come.

So Mervyn King’s warning against more spending when debt levels are already so high has predictably been leapt upon by the Conservatives as a powerful message of support for their own position. 

Cutting back on household bills

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The energy regulator has said that it is considering a ban on unjustified price differences in the energy market to address concerns that customers are being charged differing amounts according to their payment methods.

Ofgem also said that it was planning measures that will improve customer service, including simplified information about tariffs to help people decide whether they need to switch supplier.

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